Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Review of Weeds

The songs my mother sang to me were the first poems I heard as a child. The lyrics of many of those songs remain with me. I still sing them as I drive. Fill the dishwasher. Vacuum up the cats’ fur from the carpet.
            My mom sang poetry; my dad recited it to me as nursery rhymes. I was “Mary, Mary, quite contrary,” who was asked, “How does your garden grow?” I was that rascal Jack, nimbly jumping over a candlestick.

            My grandmother was “Old Mother Hubbard [who] went to the cupboard to get her poor dog a bone.” And that dog was Smokey with whom my grandmother lived, or Kentucky, my young brother’s dog.

            Songs, nursery rhymes, and then in fifth grade the required memorizing of a new poem each week: “The Owl and the Pussy Cat,” “Little Orphant Annie,” and “The Modern Hiawatha,” which was by far my favorite and which I still delight in reciting today—much to my listeners’ chagrin—some sixty-six years later.
Since those fifth grade days of being exposed to a wide range of poetic language, I’ve read and responded to poems from poets of both the past and the present. Two bloggers—Penny and Teresa Evangeline—have introduced me to a number of contemporary poets who have enriched my life in the past two years. Repeatedly poets reveal to me the light at the end of the tunnel. More often they help me realize the deep down humanity and thirst for goodness that is the essence of each of us.
And so today I want to tell you about Weeds, a book of poetry I’ve just completed by a blogger many of you may know: McGuffy Ann Morris. I’ve had the book on my bedside table for over a month now, picking it up each evening, reading a poem, and then considering what it offers me: the truths about my own experience of life.
In Weeds, Morris offers us the wisdom of the years she’s spent here on this planet we call Earth. It is a wisdom hard won and for that reason treasured. She is both observer and muse. Here are just three samples of her poetic observations:

            From “Book”
            Life is an open book
            Each person a character
            pasted on a page of time.

            From “Battle”
            I go back in time,
            the battlefield of memories.
            I need to recapture
            Moments lost, moments stolen,
            Looking for myself
            As I really am, not as you
            Perceive me to be.

            From “Median”
            Reflections fade into shadows.
            What I once was has faded;
            What I am yet to be becomes clear.
            I did not choose to be here,
            To be a part of this.
            Forever now will I be both
            Reflection and shadow.
In Weeds, Morris moves back and forth between the antipodes of life—from difficult to glorious. As a reader I saw her struggles as well as her triumphs. And yet, as with all poems that come from the depths of the human experience, I also found myself for she presents the realities of our lifelong journey through time and space, memory and experience.
The only slight hesitancy I had in reading Weeds is that I’ve come to enjoy unrhymed poetry more than rhymed. Several of Morris’ poems rhyme and when I first read them I found myself testing out the rhymes rather than reading for what the poem had to offer me in terms of my own experience of life. But as soon as I reread without stressing rhyme, I discerned the message that existed—for me—within the poem.
That is, I believe, a sign of good poetry—that it speaks to the human condition as each of us live out that condition in our own lives. I encourage you to read Weeds and to find yourself within its poems.
As Morris says on the book cover of Weeds, which I believe is her anthem to life, “There comes a time to assess and to weed our lives, in order to find value in the harvest. This book is a culmination of personal lifetime experiences and observations. To each, their own.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Meniere's, PTSD, and Weariness

Here’s a photograph of me on my Grandmother O’Mara’s tractor.
My family was visiting her farm in Anderson, Missouri.

Hello All on this chilly day in Missouri. Today’s posting won’t be an on-line memoir story from the past. The energy to write one of those stories eludes me right now. Instead I’ll bring you up to date on the present.
         The past weeks have been problematic for three reasons. The first is that the acute form of Meniere’s Disease re-entered my life after being on vacation for about two years. The barometer has plummeted a number of times and then zoomed up erratically. Both these occurrences always bring Meniere’s headaches, which are like migraines in intensity but without the sensitivity to light.
         In the past month, those precipitous barometric changes brought, per usual, the headaches, but also brought the long-absent acute rotational vertigo episodes, which I described in a posting in 2011. Living through them, however short or long each may be, leaves me drained, and so I spend time in bed, where I sleep for long hours, or I simply, as some say, crash. Upon awakening, I’m lethargic for days.
         The second occurrence during the past month has been the visit of my friend of nearly sixty years who also came to spend some time with me after Christmas. She has been working on an important report for the college where she teaches. For five days, she and I polished that report. We spent hours and hours and more hours working to make all the data clear and accessible.
         During that time, we were somewhat hampered because I began to experience technical difficulties with the Internet. We needed to go on line to check other college documents and were unable to do so when the Internet service became sporadic.
         Willy-nilly, this led to a PTSD meltdown for me. I think I've shared with you the fact that I have PTSD. The symptoms seldom occur but when they do I figuratively fall apart. This, too, leaves me exhausted.
         In the coming weeks, I hope to post the story of that meltdown, but not today. I also want to review a book of poetry by a fellow blogger—McGuffy Ann Morris. Entitled Weeds, it already has six stellar reviews on Amazon. Reviewing it will be a pleasure as I’ve enjoyed reading her poems, but today my mind simply can’t think straight enough to write something elegant enough to do justice to her work. So I’ll close for today.
         I didn’t post on my Sunday blog and I haven’t visited any of your blogs for a week because, as the Christian scriptures say, “The spirit’s willing but the flesh is weak!” I not only have weak flesh, it’s flabby too!!!
         That’s another thing I had to let go off—attending the weekly Weight Watcher’s meeting. But I hope to get back on track in the next few days. Today, I’ll mostly rest and slowly pick up the reins of my life again. Peace.

If you have any interest in learning about Meniere’s please see the Label “Meniere’s Disease” on the left side of this blog. The earliest postings describe the disease, its symptoms, and how it has affected my life.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A Sea of Ice or Maybe a Boat

The setting for today’s story is Wichita, Kansas, on a January day in 1941. In three months, I would celebrate my fifth birthday and my brother—whom I’ll call Billy in this story—would turn two. On this particular cold winter day I took his hands in mine and said, “Let’s play Rescue!”
         Mom had no idea what that game entailed, so she gladly helped us into our snowsuits, galoshes, caps, and mittens. We traipsed outside to the backyard of the Victorian house in which we rented an apartment.
         In that backyard sat an abandoned cast-iron bathtub with a porcelain interior and claw feet. Inside the tub, from side to side and back to front, was a sea of solid, and yes, slippery, ice—about a foot thick.         

         “Billy you get into the tub and stand on the ice,” I commanded my brother. “You be a pirate. The bathtub’s a boat. I’ll be a little girl on an island. You rescue me.”
         I helped him climb up onto the bathtub and stand on the ice. He grinned widely. Retreating to the far end of the snowy yard, I shouted, “Help! Mr. Pirate! Please rescue me!”
         My little brother waved at me. “Billy help!”
         “Put your hand over your eyes and stare at the island,” I ordered, showing him what I meant. I demonstrated walking up and down and peering right and left and all around. He followed my actions, slipping just a little on the ice.
         “Now say, ‘Land Ahoy!’”
         “Land Ahoy!” he shouted. His pronunciation wasn’t on target but he could shout loud enough to suit me.
         “I’m here! Mr. Pirate! Rescue me!”
         He started to climb out of the tub, but I shouted, “No! Not yet. Walk on the ice some more. Like the boat is moving! And keep looking for me!” Once again I demonstrated.
         So he began to walk back and forth on the ice. Slipping. Sliding, Falling. “Ouch!” he shouted, trying to stand upright, but his feet kept sliding out from under him, so he fell on his bottom again and again.
         “Billy, get up,” I ordered. “You’ve got to rescue me!”
         Billy met my order with a loud wail: “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!” 
         Before I could get him to stop crying, Mom came hurrying outside to investigate.

         You must know the rest: Mom lifting him out of the tub, singing his favorite song to him; Mom saying, “Anna Dolores Ready, you get in the house right now!” Mom following me as I tromped down the snowy path, tugged open the front door, trudged down the hall, and entered our apartment.
         “Why?” she asked me after we’d taken off our snowsuits. “Why did you do that to your little brother?”
         “Cause he’s a good pirate. And the tub is a boat.”
         “And the ice?”
         “The sea.”
         “Your brother could have fallen and hit his head and been hurt,” she told me.
         “But he’s got a hard head. You said so yesterday.”
         “Ice is pretty hard too and it can crack a head open.”
         This was a new thought to me: a cracked-open  head. Interesting.
         “So what do you say to your little brother?”
         I looked at Billy who was smiling at me. Every time we went to the store, women stopped my mother and said, “What a beautiful little boy!” I was always proud of his golden curls and deep blue eyes and infectious grin.
         “I’m sorry, Billy,” I said. “Let’s play another game. An inside one.”
         So it was that the afternoon ended with Mom setting up the card table and throwing a blanket over it and the three of us sitting in our homemade tent and having a tea party. Much different from being rescued by a pirate. But satisfying nonetheless.

Postscript: During the first few years of my life I was what my grandmother called, “a naughty little girl.” If you have time, click here for a story about my running away when I was about three.  Click here for my lighting a campfire in the apartment hall a month or so later.

Both photographs from Wikipedia.